World-first centre for cannabis research

Oct 12 2017

Jennifer Martin

University of Newcastle (UON) researchers have secured more than $6 million in the latest round of National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding, including $2.5 million for a world-first research centre to test the effectiveness and safety around medicinal applications of a range of cannabinoids.

Led by clinical pharmacologist Professor Jennifer Martin and in partnership with the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) and NSW Health, the Australian Centre for Cannabinoid Clinical and Research Excellence (ACRE) will undertake vital work coordinating formulation and dose studies.

UON Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Innovation), Professor Kevin Hall, said the NHMRC funding outcome was a wonderful acknowledgement of world-class research being undertaken in Newcastle, as well as a crucial step forward for the management of chronic illness.

“I would like to congratulate all the recipients on this great outcome for the future of health research in Newcastle. I look forward to their vital work delivering tangible outcomes for the community on both a local and global scale,” he said.

HMRI Director, Professor Michael Nilsson, added that the funding would enable Hunter researchers to deliver patient-focused translational research across all stages of life.

“Fellowship funding, in particular, allows researchers to dedicate time and energy to their respective projects, expanding knowledge and building collaborations rather than continually seeking grants,” he said. “It’s reward for hard work, which I’m sure will reap dividends for the entire nation.”

The NHMRC funding outcomes also include:

With physical inactivity the fourth leading cause of non-communicable deaths worldwide, Professor Plotnikoff’s work incorporating public gym equipment, a smartphone app, education and social support will aim to influence future outdoor fitness parks and improve community health.

  • $876,005 Research Fellowship for Laureate Professor Roger Smith AM to further research on human pregnancy and contributions to Indigenous maternal health, focusing on optimising the health of newborns and subsequently the long-term health of all Australians.

Laureate Professor Smith aims to better understand and prevent premature birth, reduce low birth weight and prevent of stillbirth, of which Indigenous Australians are at increased risk. The Fellowship will also undertake research to understand why pregnant women are vulnerable to certain viral infections and identify strategies to reduce maternal infection at the time of viral epidemics.

  • $431,000 Career Development Fellowship for Dr Flora Tzelepis to prevent chronic diseases in priority populations who have poorer health outcomes, including disadvantaged groups, those living in regional and remote areas and people born overseas.

Dr Tzelepis will lead a randomised trial that investigates the effectiveness of online and telephone support in socially disadvantaged groups and real-time video counselling to assist long-term smokers in regional and remote areas to quit smoking.

Dr Bivard has developed software to better select patients for stroke therapies and, by identifying patients most likely to benefit, hopes new technology will avoid unnecessary treatment and maximise cost effectiveness and benefits for survivors.

Defective sperm function is the largest single, defined cause of human infertility and poor sperm quality may be predictive of major systemic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. Dr Bromfield will investigate new ways to limit cellular stress in order to develop therapies in male reproductive health.

  • $318,768 Early Career Fellowship for Dr Kate Bartlem to explore approaches to address chronic disease health behaviour risks among people with a mental illness.

By evaluating strategies currently in place to assist those with mental illness, Dr Bartlem will test a tailored intervention in community mental health services and evaluate the effectiveness of existing telephone services for people with mental illness. She aims to contribute to an overall reduction in the chronic disease burden.

*HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.